It’s Just Life


Our bodies hold a lot of intelligence.  I did a 10k run on Sunday and it was hotter than any heat i’ve been running in so far this year.  Also, the course was more hilly than i expected. At one point toward the end I was running a hill and then suddenly I was walking.

Cor’s first rule of racing is that you run, you don’t walk.  But after my initial freak out about walking, I heard my breath.  I was panting like a dog stuck in a hot car with the windows closed. Walking was the best thing I could be doing.

I walked a few more times before the end of the race.  I made peace with it because i figured I was better off taking more time than suffer a heat stroke.

I often tell the folks in my yoga classes to check in on their breathing.  Are they holding their breath?  Start breathing again.  Is their breath uneven or labored?  Then they’re doing too much, working too hard, it’s time to back off just a bit and notice if they’re breathing evens out.  If not, back off more.

In yoga we learn how to tune in to our internal world.  That’s the kind of body awareness that helps us tune into our intuition, our gut feelings.  So often we forget how to listen to that intelligence.  We hear about a new job and our gut goes, “i don’t think so”, and then our head jumps in with, “hells yeah! it’s more money!  mom will be so proud!”.  The loudest voice wins.

Before you know it you’re in the job and it’s lousy and all the money and Mom pride in the world won’t make you feel any more sane.

Sometimes following your gut can make you feel like a nutty woo-woo chick in our world that loves rationality and pro/con lists.  I broke up with a nice guy once.  We’d been together for a while and it didn’t feel right.  He just wasn’t right for me.

But i couldn’t put it into words, especially ones that would make sense to my friends.  I remember one said, “but he’s such a nice GUY!!”. I just couldn’t explain it, other than, he wasn’t the right nice guy for me.

It’s funny because sometimes i see him, our kids take lessons at the pool and we’ve talked a couple times.  He’s still a nice guy and would have been the wrong fit for me in the long run.

Sometimes our gut knows before our head does.

I read somewhere that love can’t co-exist with fear.  I’m still mulling that one over but had an experience lately that helped me understand it.  I work with a real mega-keener who recently did a few work tasks that are in my territory, that should have been mine.

Did i ever have a reaction to that.  Firstly i’m a control freak, so don’t be stepping into my zone, this is my stuff.  But also, i like my work, I like to add value and to feel valued.  So if she’s doing my stuff then uh-oh, it might impact all that juicy goodness I get from my work.

And then it went even farther downhill.  If i’m not doing 100% of my job then sheesh, what’s to stop me from being laid off?  I know,  it’s a stretch but this was total unadulterated fear talking.  I might have headed straight to a future living in a cardboard box under a bridge.  Thankfully i didn’t go all that way because i recognized that these thoughts, as well as the icky feeling in the pit of my stomach were all totally soaked in fear.

So i asked myself –  could I look at the situation without fear?  Well, let’s see.  I could have thought, wow i’m finally getting some help around here!  I could have seen her as a team player and a teammate that i could coordinate with to get work done.  Use the opportunity to get closer rather than allow the fear to distance us. Because looking around there’s always plenty of work to do, there’s no need to fight over it.

Also, in the big picture, will this matter?  Our focus at work could change tomorrow and we could be off doing something else.  Or maybe we’ll work even closer one day and I’ll be so glad we got a headstart on being team mates.  And even bigger picture I know that some day, at the next job,  i won’t even remember her name.

So now i’m coming around to this understanding about fear.  I’m becoming convinced that nothing good can come from fear.

My friend and i were talking about wanting to change things in our lives – say eating well and achieving our fitness goals.  And we talked about how using the Big Stick works for about five minutes.  You know the approach?  It’s based on a “you suck” judgement and therefore you *have* to do x and y to make yourself better and overcome your imperfections.  It simply doesn’t work.  It’s totally fear-based.

The alternative is valuing yourself and treating yourself with respect.  Soaking in self love.  Wanting to feel good all the time.  Treating yourself like something precious.  If you hold all those values then you want to take good care of yourself.  Then there’s no judgement and nothing to live up to.  It means that if you nap instead of going to the gym,  that’s good because clearly you needed the rest and you’ll have an even better workout later.  The Big Stick and the fear that makes us use it just aren’t effective.

So i’m going to keep on this investigation.  Looking for the feelings and beliefs and reactions that are fear-based.  And then turn them on their heads so i can understand what the love-based response would be.  OK so here’s the funny thing.  A few days later at work i won an award for Going Above and Beyond.  Isn’t that funny?  I got all freaky about this keener doing my work and it had no impact whatsoever.  In fact it made me see that at work i’m seen as a keener.  So this person who made me feel fearful is actually just like me.  Maybe we’ll start a support group together.  Until then I’m looking for fear and trying out the alternatives.

My parents had their 50th wedding anniversary celebration in the summer and there were lots of friends and family in attendance. One of my Mom’s old friends was there with her husband, he’s a pastor of a church and it’s likely similiar to the one i grew up in. And they gave me a gift. They made me think again about the God i grew up with and the one I’ve come around to.

My Mom’s friend has a daughter my age and one of the first things out of her mouth in a kind of snotty voice was, “Darla’s kids are all grown up”. Now this likely makes no sense to you but let me decode the meaning for you. In the church I grew up in a woman’s #1 goal should be to get married and have kids the minute she can pull it off.

If she holds a job, the best kind is a retail sort of job, it’s easy to ditch and besides University is staffed by humanists who will turn you into a god-hater. So my Mom’s friend was pointing out to me that because i had kids later I therefore completely missed the mark, unlike her much more successful daughter.

The only response that came to mind and out of mouth was, “yeah i was having way too much fun to have kids young.” By which i meant travelling, building a career and finding a really great partner, but i’m sure she assumed it meant sleeping around or something.  And that’s ok.  I didn’t get angry or feel hurt or anything. I more enjoyed remembering why i stopped going to church and how my view of God has evolved.

I read somewhere that your image of God is the one you need. And those folks are a pretty fearful things-need-to-be-a-certain-way-or-i-can’t-cope bunch. So of course their God, even though they say he’s loving, also sits in judgement of you on things like whether you have kids later in life (they probably have a number of bible verses to back up their views).

So after ditching church i pretty much ditched God too. I didn’t really want any part of a cranky narrow-minded God who didn’t approve of the kind of person I was.

Later i read “Money Drunk, Money Sober, 90 Days to Financial Freedom”, by Julia Cameron (the Artist’s Way gal) and I loved what she said about God. Basically she said if you grew up with an image of cranky God, find a better image, find the one you need. Which i thought was awesome, like i get to pick? But what i took from that is that if i’m evolving, and I sure I hope i am, then my picture of God is going to evolve too.

And then i read Tattoos On The Heart by Gregory Boyle.  He’s a Jesuit priest who runs Homeboy Ministries in LA, working with gang members and helping them start a new life.  This book nailed my “grown up” conception of God.  I can’t say enough about it, so let me just quote you some of it.  And then go out and buy a copy of the book to support his work.

So Father Boyle goes to hold Mass in a detention facility and before it starts he talks to Rigo and asks him about his family. Rigo tells him a story about his heroin addicted father beating with a pipe when he was in fourth grade and cries as he tells it.

But I ask, “And your mom?” He points some distance from where we are to a tiny waoman standing by the gym’s entrance.

“That’s her over there.” He pauses for a beat, “There’s no one like her.”…”I’ve been locked up for more than a year and a half. She comes to see me every Sunday. You know how many buses she take every Sunday–to see my sorry ass?”

Then quite unexpectedly he sobs with the same ferocity as before. Again, it takes him some time to reclaim breath and an ability to speak. Then he does, gasping through his tears. “Seven buses. She takes…seven…buses. Imagine.”

How then to imagine, the expansive heart of this God–greater than God–who takes seven buses, just to arrive at us. We settle sometimes for less than intimacy with God when all God longs for is this solidarity with us…Our image of who God is and what’s on God’s mind is more tiny than it is troubled….

The desire of God’s heart is immeasurably larger than our imaginations can conjure. This longing of God’s to give us peace and assurance and a sense of well-being only awaits our willingness to cooperate with God’s limitless magnanimity.

Now that’s my kind of God, the seven buses kind :-)

My hips are my canary in a coal mine.  If anything is going on – I’ve sat too long, run too hard – it will show up as pain in my hips.  I was at the chiropractor complaining about the latest bout of cranky hips.  My usual awesome chiro was on maternity leave and I was seeing a fill-in guy.

Chuck is simply the cutest sweetest chiropractor you could ever meet.  And he’s good.

I said to him that I thought my hip was cranky this time because I’d stepped up my running a bit.  He looked through my chart and said, “with the regularity you’ve been complaining about this, I’d say it’s something that you’re doing 8 hours a day.  Hmmmm, it’s on the right side.  What’s on the right side of your desk at work?”  I told him my phone was on the right hand side and that yes I use it a lot and he gave me the perfectly reasonable advice that I try moving it more towards the middle so I’m not leaning on my right hip so much.

So brilliant it should be obvious right?

Then I told him that it’s so frustrating – when my hip is painful doing yoga is also really painful and that’s my favorite way of trying to help my body so if that’s out it doesn’t leave me with much that I can do.  And yes, i was saying it in a whiney kind of voice.  (Note: other things that help are light exercise like walking, hot epsom salt baths, a smear of tiger balm before bed and good ol’ ibuprofin).

He said, “Corilee you teach yoga, you know better than that.  You need to be doing 5-10 minutes a day of the stretches that you know help keep your hips limber.  Not save it all up for when they’re painful.”

Dang, so right.  How does he get to be cute and good?

He also suggested one of those wobbly things you can sit on at your desk so that your core is activated and your hips don’t lock up.  I haven’t tried that suggestion yet but have been keeping up on my core exercises and my hips stretches everyday.  Last week I realized that i it was 8 weeks since I’d been to the chiropractor.  I hadn’t made it that long without the urgent, “when can you get me in??!!” appointment request in forever.  I wasn’t in pain, but i went for a tune-up to keep any issues at bay.

Here are my daily hip stretches:

Option 1:

Hamstring stretch like Forward Bend.  Just hang for a few breaths and if back is tight keep some softness in the knees to stretch to balance the stretch between them.

High Lunge to low lunge, then move hands to inside of front foot and lower the torso to get real deep.  If this feels intense, i’ll go back and forth to give each side a break while i work through the three versions.

Pigeon.  As I hold i’ll come up on my hands to deepen the stretch and then add a twist reaching front leg side arm back to hold back leg.

Option 2 on back:

Squeeze knees into chest.

Cross right knee over left and squeeze both in, especially holding right foot towards body (really hits the IT band if it’s tight).

Hold one leg up a time for hamstring stretch.

Drop knees from side to side and then hold on one side, even sliding top knee to the floor above bottom knee for extra deep low back stretch.  Change sides.

Then outside of right foot on left thigh, pull thigh in (i’ve heard it called “threading the needle” or “Number 4 pose”).  If it’s tight i’ll do each side twice.

Honeybunny is an incredibly loyal Edmonton Oilers hockey team fan.  He started back in the 90′ s when they had Gretsky and has followed them ever since.  Living in Halifax, a city too small for a team means that hockey fans can follow any team.  But most people follow the teams close by, in the East.  Honeybunny stays up many late nights all winter long following a team that’s in a time zone 3 hours behind us.

This season we watched “Oil Change”, a show about the team and even though I don’t watch the hockey, i like shows about hockey.  I find the players and the business and the expansion story fascinating even though I hardly remember any of the people’s names.

In the last episode we watched Taylor Fedun shatter his femur, his thigh bone, when his knee went into the boards.  The crazy thing about these elite players is that they take injuries in their stride.

Hockey is a pretty dangerous sport and I’ve seen the ugly face injuries, the jaw wiring, the nasty kind of owies that would throw me for a loop.  But seeing Taylor in the wheelchair after hours of surgery, and not knowing how the story played out, i really wondered if he’d make it back to the game.

They showed the long process of his rehab and talked to his physical therapist.  The therapist said, even when Taylor was improving, *every* workout was painful.  But he just saw the pain as sensation to be managed like anything else.

I would see the pain as a sign that i shouldn’t be doing the exercise – this obviously isn’t making my body happy.  But it just goes to show you, you can reframe anything in your mind.  And be up for dealing with anything.

It reminds me that it’s not the circumstances in life that make us happy.  The fact is, life happens.  Stuff happens.  That’s Life’s job.

Our job is to deal.  Find the best ways to look at it.  Make up the most innovative healing stories to tell ourselves about it.

I was being really bothered recently by someone I found really annoying.  Me and this other person – let’s call him Joe – just were not seeing eye to eye.  He really bugged me.  And then i was finding that i was thinking about my annoyance when i’d much rather be enjoying my weekend, say.  Or sleeping.  And then that would annoy me even more.

One morning i was in the car listening to a podcast on Lovingkindness meditation.  I love it, i do the meditation in my yoga class all the time.  My favourite one goes like this:

May you be happy.

May you feel loved.

May all your suffering be healed.

May you be at peace.

We do the meditation silently during relaxation and i say each line and pause so they can repeat it to themselves.  We say it first for ourselves, next for someone we care about , again for someone who’s totally neutral (the person who sells you coffee in the morning) and then finally for someone who we have a harder time with.  The kind of relationship that has been difficult or needs some healing.

When we got to that part of the meditation in the podcast I immediately thought of Joe.  And I put the lovingkindness out to him.

And it was really cool because I felt myself soften toward him with each line.  I didn’t feel so resistant and on-the-opposite-side-of-the-fence to him.

When it was done i really felt like i didn’t need Joe to be any different.  I felt like I cared for or respected him enough to allow him to be exactly who he is, without the annoyance this time. It felt really freeing.

You know that Gandhi quote, “be the change you want to see in the world”?  I always thought that was for really big change like world peace.  But it ocurred to me driving to work that morning, that I had just done it.

I had wanted Joe to change and be less annoying.  But instead i managed to change my perspective so I was less annoyed. I was the change.

But it gets even better.  You know what happened when I saw Joe?  I was much more open to him without even trying.  I was warmer and more accommodating instead of resistant and shut down.  Just waiting to be annoyed.  I was genuinely interested in how he was doing.

It was pretty cool.  Because I think of the lovingkindness meditation as something we put out to the people that we’re thinking about.  And that may be true.  I like to think we’re sending those people good stuff. But the real juice is the gift you give to yourself.

Being open and caring and genuine is such a better way to be in the world.  I can attest that it sure beats being annoyed.

There’s a guy I know who is really cranky.  He’s one of those people who seems to believe that life is dealing him a tough set of circumstances and he’s unhappy and growly about it all the time.  Sometimes i wonder if his life can really be that tough, he seems to believe it is.  But regardless, his wife is having a baby soon.  And i thought about how he finds life tough now and i think, dude, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

You haven’t seen random until you’ve had a newborn in the house.  You haven’t seen “things i can’t control” until you’ve had a kid high on sugar at Easter, Halloween, Christmas and every birthday party, especially his own.

It’s so easy to get caught in needing things to be ok to be happy.  And man, if there’s one thing that parenthood has taught me, it’s that i can attempt to be happy regardless.  And i get to relearn that one regularly because i forget all the time.  I can also remind myself that this was my choice (although I’m sure I was drunk) and I can choose to find the good, anytime.

I was reading “Excuse Me Your Life is Waiting” and read these gems in her family section.

I will be open to…. wellbeing no matter what crazy thing you’ve done.

I don’t need conditions to be right to be happy.

I’m not going to pay any more attention to your silly habits, because I don’t need everything to be perfect for my love to flow to you.

I don’t know how it’s going to turn out for you, but i know it’s going to be fine.  I never worry about you, because I know whatever is in store will be good.

I wrote  a couple weeks back about losing a family member, and then my sister-in-law lost her Dad and then the loss got a little closer to home. Mike (Douglas) Smith, died suddenly at 49. He had been my boss for many years and was a good one at that. He pushed me like crazy. His standards were a mile high. But he was fair.  If you worked hard nad did well it paid off.

I’m a fairly organized person, but any skill I have in chasing down every last detail and not losing track of even the most minor part of a project, I learned from him.

He also came to my yoga classes, instituted lunchtime classes in our workplace and continued coming to my classes when he went to work elsewhere.

So when he passed it was a real loss.  More sudden and and closer to me than others have been. I noticed how I felt it keenly in my body. Sometimes throat and chest. Sometimes my legs felt all fuzzy and weak.  My friend suggested I felt like my legs had been knocked out from under me.

It made me look into yoga for grief and how to work those particular emotions through the body.

And then Monday night we did a class around all that. Here’s what we did:

  • First I asked the class to think of  a loss that affected them – a friend, a job, a pet, not necessarily a death – and set their intention to do some healing around that loss.
  • We started with eye massages – using your first two fingers, run them along your eyebrows, inside to outside and then continue around in circles using the amount of pressure that feels good.
  • Modified throat lock – start with an inhale, then with the exhale lower chin to chest and inhale back up. Use a Ugayai breath.  After two or three, play with pausing, head down before beginning the inhale. Notice the feeling of peacefulness there where you have everything you need, even breath and oxygen.
  • Continue seated warm-ups with moving twists, side bends and folds forward alternating with seated backbends.
  • We got on our backs and did a whack of bicycle, to get the emotion moving through our bellies.
  • Then an easy down dog moving into a forward bend, using movement to ease into the stretch.
  • Then three half sun salutations and we worked in lots of spine moving, balancing and hip stretching poses: warriors 1, 2 and 3, triangle and revolved triangle, deep pauses in forward bend, wide leg forward bend, tree, high and low lunge and pigeon.
  • We did lots of backbending poses, modified bow and bow, locust, cobra, bridge.
  • We got on our backs for some final hip stretching and a good long spinal twistand
  • Then I gave them the choice of Legs Up The Wall or Shoulder stand
  • Finally i gave them temple and forehead massages with lavender oil for Savasana.  I played them Mike’s favourite Savasana tune.

 

 

 

I had oatmeal for dinner. Wait. Before you go back to Angry birds, let me tell you the story. I’ve had a stressful time lately and have not been making the best food choices.

So I’ve been feeling a little “juicy” as my buddy calls it, and then that makes me feel yucky and I get down on myself because i’m tired and stressed out. And then i make more poor choices. So Sunday I was tired of making choices that make me feel lousy. I made the conscious decision to really take care of myself this week.

I’ve finally realized that what tastes good doesn’t necessarily make my body and mind feel good. It took me a while. And that there are foods that make both my body and mind feel good.

It’s funny because we’re always looking outside ourselves for the ideal diet for food plan.  When really the best source of info is right under our noses.  Our own bodies tell us after each meal whether it was a good experience or not.

After a meal, do we feel like we just consumed a large animal?  All bloated and sluggish and tired?  Or do we feel energized and alive, like we’ve just eaten the *very thing* that our body really needed?

Before I figured this out I used food like a big stick.  If it was time to tighten things up (literally and figuratively) my point of view was that i’ve been having way too much fun and so now it’s time for the stockade.  Now i will beat up on myself and eat nothing but bread and water (figuratively speaking).

But thankfully i’ve become a bit less judgemental in my life and i can say, meh, it’s a couple pounds, it’s not about my value as a person.  And i know how to lose them because it sure isn’t the first time i’ve decided to “tighten up”.

Since tuning into how food makes me feel, i notice that I really like the foods that make me feel good.  Or I’ve figured out which foods taste good to me and are good for me.  It’s key.

So yeah i had oatmeal for dinner because I knew it wouldn’t bother me when i taught yoga an hour later.  I also made it with cinnamon (helps balance your blood sugar), coconut oil (healthy fats) and whole milk (just damn yummy) so that it tasted good and i felt good about eating it too.

I took it a step further and made two lunches of salmon salad with avocado because salmon and healthy fats are supposed to help your mood (i can’t remember where i read it, but who cares, i love both of them).

I made myself a reiki and a massage appointment.  I’m also making sure i get my exercise – not bootcamp sweatfests necessarily, walks and yoga, heck any exercise, vastly improves my mental health too.  So I’m going with the energy I have to figure out what exercise is best.

I’m spending this week focusing on being kind to myself. I’m done with going through challenging times with a stiff upper lip.  I’m tired of just driving on through.  I want to be my own *biggest* support.  Figuratively speaking.

Honeybunny’s favourite uncle died last week.  He was in his 80’s and had had a lot of health challenges.  They started with diabetes a long time ago and then he dealt with the related complications to that and finally he was having dialysis regularly.

No fun.  But he did it and he kept a good attitude.  His wife and daughters always made sure he had baking to take in to the nurses on “dialysis day”.

Recently they found a stage 4 cancerous tumour in his throat.  And his family was so upset that he had yet another serious health issue to deal with.

But he told them he was done.  He wasn’t going to have another treatment or procedure or round of dialysis.  He was finished with it all.

So the night before he died they gave him Pepsi.  He had *loved* Pepsi but hadn’t been able to have it since he was diagnosed with diabetes so many years before.  I wonder if it was as good as he remembered.

All the heath problems that had been such a chore to deal with became a gift for him.  He was able to decide he was done and then go a few days later.  The family had enough time to say their good-byes but not watch him suffer.  He was in control of it.  And got to have his Pepsi too.

I was so proud and happy for him that he was able to die with dignity.  I can only hope for the same when i get to that point in my life.  We’re going to miss you Uncle Nicky, rest in peace.

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